May 1, 2019 at 8:00 AM by
Like Solomons, Leonardtown, California and Lexington Park have also grown in popularity for visitors and second home owners over the years. To drive here from the DC area only takes about an hour and twenty minutes, depending on the traffic. California and Lexington Park are big on all the modern conveniences of well-developed communities–especially ones linked to high tech industries and the military, whereas Leonardtown stands out for its history and charm. All of these towns–just like much of what you find in St. Mary’s County–offer lovely curb appeal and plenty to do.
The sweetness of yesteryear shines bright at Leonardtown where the town’s character has been preserved and most of the buildings have been lovingly restored. (St. Andrew’s Church and Tudor Hall even have the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.) Amble down to the Leonardtown Wharf Park opened in 2008 and imagine how it was back in the day when visitors arrived to this Southern Maryland destination by steamship. Whether sailing in from the Potomac River or the Chesapeake Bay, Leonardtown bustled over the centuries with the transport of goods and people.
Today most of the moving about of goods in Leonardtown comes from shoppers and shops of which there are many. Good news is these are not cookie cutter stores that you see all around the country because Leonardtown seems to have a real penchant for beautiful handcrafted items, fine art and unique gifts. The North End Gallery is a great place to start, particularly if you like paintings. Artistic expression shows up in a variety of forms at the Leonardtown Arts Center where artists rent space to create, show and sell their paintings, sculpture and jewelry. A variety of programs are also offered here for kids and adults, so check in advance if you plan to spend any length of time in the area.
Fiber fans will enjoy Crazy for Ewe and New View Fiber Works. How often do you find a yarn store, let alone two in a small town? I bet there’s been a lot of knitting of fisherman’s sweaters here over the years! You’ll also discover many handcrafted items, fashioned out of fiber and a spectrum of other materials, at the Craft Guild Shop.
Stop into the Social Coffeehouse & Speakeasy or the Olde Town Pub to toast all of your treasure hunting and fun! You also might want to consider a leisurely lunch on The Front Porch.
In search of a scenic excursion? Visit the Piney Point Lighthouse, Museum and Historic Park. Built in 1836, this little beacon is brimming with history; here you can even see the lighthouse keeper’s quarters, which is always super cool. Follow it up with lunch at the Ruddy Duck Brewery and Grill, a local’s favorite on little St. George Island that’s also a highlight on the Maryland Crab and Oyster Trail. Delicious!
To the north, Lexington Park and California outsize the little communities of St. Mary’s County considerably. Much of their growth is due to the presence of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station that has experienced continued expansion over the years. Visit the Pax River Naval Air Museum and Visitors Center to learn about the history and heritage of naval aviation as well as their significant presence in the area. You can even fly an F-14 (with the help of a simulator while the jet is firmly planted on the ground, but that’s still pretty awesome).
Tech wizards and super sleuths will find their match at Escape from the Past, Southern Maryland’s first escape room. You and a few of your friends can pay to challenge yourself to see if you break out of some dastardly places including a doc’s lab, a cell block and a witch’s hovel. Now that’s a novel twist on adventure!
It sounds like the best place to go after the above would be the Mad Moon Café and Lounge. In addition to coffee, you might be oh-so thankful that they also serve beer and wine. Live music, too, if you hit it right.
Here’s a little anecdote to satisfy your curiosity in case you’re wondering about the origins of the names of California, Maryland and nearby Hollywood, Maryland. California, MD was indeed named after the state; Hollywood, MD, was, however, named after the holly bushes found outside of the new post office in this locale established just three years before Hollywood, CA in 1867. You’re welcome!